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higher heart risks, mental disorders

New research shows that a number of mental disorders and poor mental health may be linked with higher heart risks and a higher chance of developing coronary heart disease. CHD is responsible for about 600,000 deaths each year in the United States alone, and it is one of the leading causes of death for both sexes. A new study conducted at the Edinburgh University, U.K., by a team that was led by Dr. Catherine Gale, showed that mental disorders can raise the risk of developing CHD. According to Dr. Gale “Our findings suggest that mental disorders pose a huge public health burden in terms of premature illness and death due to CHD. The physical health care of people with mental disorders needs to be a priority for clinicians if this burden is to be reduced.”

Mental disorders that required hospitalization represented the highest risk of CHD, but even anxiety or depression can raise heart risks as well. The study participants covered mental disorders which included depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, personality disorders, neurotic disorders, and schizophrenia. Depressive disorders caused a 30% increase in heart risks while alcohol abuse and addiction increased the risks of CHD by as much as 92%. The study results were published in the medical journal Circulation. Healthcare providers need to understand that these mental disorders can affect physical health and treat them accordingly. In the Harvard Mental Health Letter, February 2006, the possibility of a link was examined. According to the newsletter “Mind and mood can affect the cardiovascular system directly by creating a state of emergency readiness, in which stress hormone levels rise, blood vessels constrict, and heartbeat speeds up. If a person is seriously depressed or anxious, the emergency response becomes constant, damaging the blood vessels and making the heart less sensitive to signals telling it to slow down or speed up as the body’s demands change.”